Login to MyACC
ACC Members

Not a Member?

The Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) is the world's largest organization serving the professional and business interests of attorneys who practice in the legal departments of corporations, associations, nonprofits and other private-sector organizations around the globe.

Join ACC

Haleon Optimizes Legal Operations — with an Assist from UnitedLex  

The challenge(s) 

VP and Chief Operating Officer Robert Mignanelli joined Haleon in 2021, just as the organization was preparing to separate from GSK. “During this time, we identified a couple of core areas we needed to stand up, for both service continuity and to enable a digital transformation of the department. Those key areas included legal operations and a contracting center of excellence,” says Mignanelli. While the separation model from GSK included a provision for a small legal operations team or function, there wasn’t “anything in the realm of a contract center of excellence.”  

According to the COO, that legal operations function would need to support the business as a standalone, independent department following the structural changes at the company. “A challenge I faced, was how do I ensure continuity of service around transactional work and do that in a manner that is highly efficient from a service delivery perspective and makes the best utilization of the financial resources available to me to create that capability within the organization.”  

The path forward 

As far as building out the right structure, there were a few paths the team could take. “It’s always an option to decide to build it all internally and have a completely captive organization — whether that’s on the legal operations side or the contract service center side. On the other end of the spectrum is outsourcing it all.” But there is a third option, one that has served the previous Value Champion winner well in the past. “There was a hybrid operation where we established combined teams with a trusted strategic partner to deliver those capabilities to the organization,” explains Mignanelli. “I’m a firm believer that from a transformational perspective, the hybrid model works best. It also creates a sense of unity with your strategic partner to become one legal team, which is where we wanted to head.”  

UnitedLex becomes Haleon’s trusted partner 

The team, led by Mignanelli and UnitedLex VP Jay Essley, collaborated on building and implementing a CoE “to centralize global demand for above market and English language procurement and business function agreements.” In other words, the focus was on creating something that would transform the way the Haleon legal department operated — promoting prioritization of high-value activities, flexibility, organization, collaboration, and more — to deliver greater service to the business.  

“Our teams are seen by internal clients at Haleon as one legal ops group — they don’t know who’s UnitedLex or who’s Haleon, it’s just legal,” says Essley. “That’s a critical piece in how we approach the market, and why our partnership is unique and works so well. From a service perspective, the business and our internal clients see us as one team, delivering high-quality legal services to them.”  

Touted as a “first-of-its-kind” approach to managing the variety of complex tasks assigned within the legal department, the team aimed to build a modern legal infrastructure which creates “digital efficiencies, operational rigor, and measurable value.” That design included six workstreams: 1. A law department organizational redesign; 2. Centralized and digitized contracting function; 3. Privacy and compliance; 4. Legal operations; 5. Discovery program management; and 6. IP portfolio assessment and development.  

The approach is working 

Within six months of launch, the team’s modernization strategy facilitated a 30 percent savings against the operational expense run rate, averaging 20 percent improvement across KPIs. The team can also celebrate 40 percent faster response time on internal matters, and the automation applied via AI-enabled self-service, triage, and workflow has increased capacity creation by 30 percent. These are just a few of the accomplishments resulting from the team’s efforts and the CoE model for Contracting and Legal Operations.  

Success is found in the data 

According to Mignanelli, the legal department faced a couple of challenges as it related to data collection following the split from GSK. “We had mixed data, there wasn’t a single repository of data systems. There was some consumer specific data available, but we had to ferret it out, which became a manual process of interviewing people — those still in the department, indirect and direct stakeholders — to find out what services they had been providing, and what services they expected to provide in the future.” Much went into navigating this and other challenges, but what worked for the team was gathering the data available, making the right resourcing and process decisions, understanding the technology available, and agreeing on standardization. “We had to pick a standardization path for each area identified by our internal clients,” he explains, noting that the team decided to collect data on the activities of the CoE every 90 days and to adjust as needed.  

Essley agreed. “We made a commitment to each other to shift as needed, which can be uncharted territory for organizations looking to stick to strict contractual obligations or KPIs. We didn’t approach it that way, we understood to get to a stabilization period where you can even have those metrics, we had to get this thing up and running. That commitment to agility was a big key to success for us.” 

Adding value 

Haleon and UnitedLex have developed quite a successful partnership. If your team is looking to do something similar, Essley recommends digging into a few questions first, and making sure that those you bring onboard are not resistant to change. “First, identify a roadmap with specific milestones and stated outcomes to be accomplished or pain points to be solved, or some combination of the two. Next, ask does it align to the corporate vision? Do we have the right leadership in place to sponsor these activities? Do we have the right strategic partnerships? And finally, do we have the right team? While you don’t just get rid of the existing team because you’re implementing modernization or transformation efforts, you bring them with you, it’s important for the team to embrace change.”  

Another aspect to consider when considering a partnership like Haleon and UnitedLex’s is the commitment it takes to see significant results. “It’s a multiyear commitment that we made to each other from the start.  A short-term arrangement will not breed success for this type of relationship,” says Mignanelli. “You must have extraordinary commitment on both sides of the relationship with each organization, because it takes time, effort, and commitment to build. We’re invested in each other.’” 

When it comes to the legal team adding value, Mignanelli stresses that’s it’s not the tools that make the difference, although they can help. “From a process perspective, everything’s a process. No matter what tools you use, whether you track things in Excel or use a yellow pad on your desk, you can collect and track data in low-tech, basic ways. You can then use that data to have conversations with your businesspeople about getting better. When you do that, when you take that next step from being reactive to proactive, and go back to your businesspeople and say, ‘we've been doing this for six months together and I’ve noticed that every time we do this type of agreement it takes forever, and it seems to go here or there’ – that’s adding value.”  

Afterall, adding value and being seen as a true partner to the business is what all legal department and the lawyers within them strive for. “At the end of the day, we’re just businesspeople with law degrees, driving objectives,” says Mignanelli.